Undergraduate commencement address delivered by Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thank you President Schmotter. Thank you to all of you.

What an exciting day: A day of transition and transformation.

And not just for the graduates.

For their parents who desperately want to transition away from tuition bills to maybe a vacation JUST for themselves or a newer car or a little set-aside for their retirement.

But don't celebrate too much, parents — the prodigal sons and daughters will be home again. Your food bill will go up, laundry will be piled up everywhere, they will sleep at least 12 hours a day (usually during daylight hours) and any plans you had for renovating or transforming the house and repurposing those bedrooms or the basement will be shot, well, to hell. Trust me. I speak — sadly — from experience. Twice.

And for President Schmotter — a well-deserved transition into retirement. You have accomplished so much in your decade of service to Western. You have literally transformed the school — academically and physically. You should be very proud of your tenure here. We are proud of you and we wish you an active, yet restful, rewarding and stress-free retirement. Thank you, from all of us.

OK, now to the stars of the day: our graduates. This is your day, a day to celebrate and cheer. A day to reflect on your many, many years of education — from your first day of kindergarten to middle school to high school to course after course, paper after paper, final after final, juggling work and family and classes.

You did it!! Yes, today is all about you. And my graduation present to you is ... a short speech. As fascinating, brilliant and funny as I know I am (and humble), I know you're not in the mood for a long speech.

You rightly want to get your hands on your actual diplomas. You want to spend time with your friends and your family. You want to celebrate and party. And so you shall.

But first a few words as we send you on your way to the rest of your life. A list of do's and don'ts, if you will.

Do continue your learning. Get an advanced degree. It's almost mandatory these days. Take a couple of years off if you need to, but go back and get a master’s degree or higher. Do it not just for a better job but for a better mind.

Whether you go back or not, keep learning. Keep asking questions. Keep finding out why. Demand to know why not. Expand your experiences and your minds. Let intellectual curiosity be your constant companion.

Do keep every door open to yourselves. Never say never. Always try something new — a new idea, a new place, new travel, new friends, new opportunities. This girl from Norfolk, Virginia, never would have guessed she would be the governor of Connecticut one day. But I left every door open — and look where it led me.

Don't let fear guide you. Don't let failure stop you.

This is your moment. Take it. Own it. Master it. Make the most of it.

Trust me, you really can change the world. And we need you to change it, because our world is changing in so many ways, and at WARP speed.

Our economy, the job market, technology, education, health care — all are evolving, advancing every day.

Frankly the pace of change is breathtaking. Yes, breathtaking and challenging. But nobody is better prepared, better equipped to rise to the challenge. After all, you are Colonials — Western Colonials!

And as Western grads, do remember to always treat those around you with respect, compassion and kindness. Don't let the size of your paycheck be the measure of your success. Rather let it be how well you treat others and what kind of difference you make.

Do remember to say thank you. And you can start today by thanking your parents, your advisers, your professors — all those who helped you to get to this day.

Do work hard. Play hard. And love harder.

It's not just about a job or a job title. Yes a good, satisfying, rewarding job is important. But far, far more important is grabbing and enjoying life and building a family whom you love and who loves you.

Participate in your community. Volunteer. Contribute. Put aside the shallowness, hollowness of self. Embrace and elevate others.

Think about the person you love the most. Admire the most. Think about why. And then do. Do as they do.

Oh, I envy each one of you. You are on the precipice of a whole new beginning. The canvas of your life is mostly blank, waiting now for you to fill it in with flourish and flair. With broad strokes and fine lines. With love and laughter.

This is your moment. Take it. Own it. Master it. Make the most of it.

You are the sons and daughters of Connecticut. We are all so proud of you. Enjoy your day of celebration. Congratulations!



Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.


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